Intermediate/ Pubescent Wheatgrass

Percy Folkard, BC FLNR
Scientific name: 

Thinopyrum intermedia (Host) Barkw. and D.R. Dewey

Agronomic Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
Annual precip. max (mm): 
Seed size: 
Seeds per kg: 
PR Suitability note: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is well-suited to the Peace Region, especially varieties developed at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (e.g., Chief and Clarke).
Key considerations: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is not suited to season long continuous grazing systems and is relatively short-lived. Can work well in hay mixtures with alfalfa because it matures later than other cool season grasses. An extensive root system makes it suitable for erosion control. Tolerance for alkaline soils with pH up to 9.0
General Description: 

Intermediate wheatgrass is an erect, tall, perennial grass. Pubescent wheatgrass is currently considered to be a type of intermediate wheatgrass, although originally it was considered a separate species.

It appears to be a bunchgrass but some varieties have stronger, longer creeping rhizomes than others. It forms deep, extensive fibrous roots. Stems are 50 to 150 cm (20 to 60 in.) tall. Leaves are blue-green to green and 2 to 10 mm wide with thickened and hardened margins.

The seed heads are about 5 to 25 cm (2 to 10 in.) long in a narrow-shaped spike. There is one spikelet per node, attached alternatively, with 2 to 6 flowers. Intermediate wheatgrass produces large seed by cross-pollination.

Intermediate wheatgrass is native to central Europe, the Balkans, and Asia minor and was introduced into North America in the 1930s. Early varieties into Canada came from Russia, or through the United States from Russia.
Intermediate wheatgrass is distributed throughout most of western North America.
Habitat and climate: 
Dry roadsides and forests in the montane zone.
Intermediate wheatgrass is used for pasture forage, hay, and stockpiled grazing. With its extensive root system, it is also used for erosion control and the stabilization of disturbed soils. Pubescent wheatgrass was used extensively in rangeland rehabilitation seeding.
Optimal time of grazing use: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is best utilized in spring and early summer. Plants should be allowed to reach a height of 20 cm (8 in.) before grazing, but it is best grazed before stem elongation. If used as a stockpiled forage, intermediate wheatgrass should be grazed early in the season to maintain quality.
Recovery after use (rating): 
Recovery after use: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is slow to regrow following clipping or grazing, especially if close or frequent. Grazing or cutting intermediate wheatgrass more than once per year will reduce stand vigour and persistence in the stand. A grazed stubble height of 10 cm (4 in.) is recommended. Its ability to form a sod increases its ability to withstand trampling.
Forage yield: 
Intermediate wheatgrass can provide higher forage yields than other species in pasture situations where it is well adapted. In a trial on Gray zone soils near Prince George, intermediate wheatgrass produced a dry matter yield of 4,274 kg/ha (3,816 lb/acre).
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is highly palatable to livestock and wildlife. Typically intermediate wheatgrass has crude protein of 12-15% at haying, and protein may be as high as 11% later in the season. Intermediate wheatgrass matures later than other grasses, providing a high quality hay when it is grown in a mixture with alfalfa.
Longevity (rating): 
Intermediate wheatgrass is relatively short lived.
Persistence (rating): 
Intermediate wheatgrass persists less than 6 years in grazed pastures, but will persist as long as 10 years when used in a single crop hay situation. It is apparent that persistence is highly related to individual site conditions. In a U.S. Forest Service planting established in 1939 in southern Idaho, intermediate wheatgrass persisted for 52 years.
Invasiveness (rating): 
Intermediate wheatgrass is not considered invasive, although in some situations it has been known to increase from sites where it is planted.
Competitiveness (rating): 
Competitiveness has been variable depending on site conditions, and is thought to be less competitive than western wheatgrass. Its lack of competitiveness makes it a good candidate for mixing with legumes like alfalfa.
Weed resistance (rating): 
Weed resistance: 
When intermediate wheatgrass densities are high, it is expected to have moderate weed resistance.
Erosion control (rating): 
Erosion control: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is effective for erosion control. It produces a dense root system, especially on more moist sites. Root production will be reduced on drier sites.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
Drought tolerance: 
Intermediate wheatgrass has good drought tolerance, but less tolerance than crested wheatgrass or Russian wildrye.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
Winter hardiness: 
Intermediate wheatgrass has good winter hardiness.
Soil texture preference (rating): 
Soil texture preference: 
Intermediate wheatgrass prefers well drained fine- to medium-textured soils.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
Flooding tolerance: 
Intermediate wheatgrass does not tolerate flooding, but can withstand submergence for about 1 week in the spring.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
Salinity tolerance: 
Intermediate wheatgrass has moderate salinity tolerance.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
Acidity tolerance : 
Intermediate wheatgrass tolerates soil pH as low as 5.6.
Fire tolerance (rating): 
Ease of establishment (rating): 
Ease of establishment: 
Intermediate wheatgrass establishes easily.
Suggested mixtures: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is often combined with alfalfa for hay production.
Management considerations: 
Intermediate wheatgrass is not suited to continuous grazing. It should be rested for at least 4 weeks in higher production rotational systems.